It’s hard to describe the works of Salvador Dalí. He is an iconoclastic and controversial figure in the art world. Yet he’s much more than that. Dalí’s work holds a number of influences and inspirations that set him apart from other artists and make his works almost impossible to categorize. At first glance, he appears to be a surrealist, a modernist, a cubist, and a dadaist. But his paintings, collages, and bizarre three-dimensional works of art also owe much to classical and Renaissance masterpieces. Many critics and art lovers have dismissed Dalí because he was either too eccentric, too commercial, or because they simply failed to understand the pure talent and genius of his creations. On a personal level, I’ve always been attracted to these images, because they seem to have been born in dreams and were then expressed in a way that we could all experience them as vividly as Dalí himself.
As a genre that spans multiple mediums, fantasy has been able to introduce people to new worlds, new concepts, and encounters that only the imagination could provide. Within the art world, very few fantasy artists have ever been given the credit that they deserve for their artistic work. Aesthetically, fantasy in art is usually comprised of scenes of scantily clad barbarian men and women battling with supernatural forces, though there are other kinds of fantasy art. However, when it comes to “pulp fantasy”, as I often refer to it, no artist has ever had the kind of cultural impact and influence that Frank Frazetta has. His works have pushed the envelope in ways that are almost indescribable. The men he draws are muscle-bound and rippling with testosterone; the women are voluptuous sensual creatures who can barely stand due to their feminine endowments; the monsters are as grotesque and as savage could be.
I’ve been a great admirer of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their artistic style for a very long time now. Of all the artists associated with the movement, I think that John William Waterhouse is probably my favorite. This is partly because Waterhouse was consistently brilliant in his creation of evocative scenes inspired by mythology, historical legend, and classic literature. However, while this aspect of his art appeals to me on an intellectual level, I find myself also drawn in by the delicate sense of bittersweet romance and unrequited love on an emotional level. Waterhouse created images of women who were more than mortal women. They are beautiful, seductive, and melancholy representations of our collective longings manifested on the canvas of a master. Waterhouse was one of the last Pre-Raphaelite artists and yet his work overshadows many of the lesser known artists of the movement who came before him.
Edvard Munch has long been one of my favorite artists in Modern Art. His Symbolist and Proto-Expressionist works have a deeply personal connection with me. Somehow, they reach into my psyche, wrenching my emotions and thoughts from within and allow them to materialize in paint. Munch’s art worked on two psychological levels at once, both conjuring up primitive emotions from our personal past while at the same time juxtaposing it with his knowledge of archetypal characters from our collective past. I love the way his artwork, much like Franz Kafka‘s writings, tap into those deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy, guilt, regret, lust, and utter despair. Utilizing bold brush strokes and vibrant colors and contrasting them with ambiguous shadows, Munch’s imagery carries with it all the complex emotions and mysteries of the human experience.